If you’re anything like me, podcasts have long since replaced music as the backdrop of any long drive or commute to work. I’m subscribed to nearly a dozen podcasts, but I also listen to individual episodes of countless more.
I’d always assumed that the iPhone’s native podcast app was the best way to listen to them, seeing as Apple did invent the podcast.
But a few weeks ago I took the plunge and bought the $A6 Pocket Casts app from Australia-based startup ShiftyJelly. I haven’t looked back since.
You might be wondering what spurred me to leave the birthplace of the podcast, and to spend money for the privilege, no less. Here are just some of Pocket Cast’s draws:
Pocket Casts arranges your podcasts in a neat tile grid so that you can browse by artwork. It gives you the option to change the size of the tiles, or to go back to the list style that the Apple podcasts app currently employs.
Granted, the design of an app isn't necessarily a deal-maker, but when I'm browsing through it every single day, it helps that it looks great.
Pocket Casts was designed with serious listeners in mind. No longer are you tied to Apple's 15-second fast-forward and rewind buttons. Pocket Casts comes with those buttons pre-set at a 10-second rewind and 45-second fast-forward, but allows you to customise them to any 5-second intervals (I've got mine at a 10-second rewind and 20-second fast-forward).
Likewise, you can set the playback speed for each podcast you listen to. Whereas Apple's software only allows 0.5x, 1.5x, and 2.0x playback, Pocket Casts increases in intervals of 0.1 from 0.5x all the way up to 3.0x. I personally have found the sweet spot to be 1.3x playback. This keeps things from sounding funky, but still trims a solid 15 minutes off of an hour-long program.
Do you ever listen to podcasts that sound like they were recorded with the microphone from a 2006 Motorola Razr by someone standing on a crowded train platform? You know, the ones where you need to raise the volume on your earbuds to full-blast and still find yourself rewinding every 45 seconds to catch a word that as lost to the garble? It seems like the good folks over at Pocket Casts listen to those, too, because they have included a volume-boost feature, which increases the volume on voices, whilst simultaneously reducing background noise.
They have also included a nifty feature that shortens episode lengths by trimming silence. This is sure to be appreciated by anyone who listens to podcasts that originally air as radio programs and often have a few seconds of silence where advertisements would have been.
In addition, a recent update added a new feature that has become a must in top-tier apps: night mode. Well, technically it's called the 'dark theme,' but it achieves the same purpose. Now you can pick a podcast to drift off to sleep to without going blind in the process.
I started listening to podcasts regularly in June 2015. Since then, I've probably listened to several hundred hours of great digital audio programming. I don't actually know how much I've listened to, though, because Apple's podcast app doesn't keep track of my listening. Pocket Casts changes that.
If you like keeping track of your entertainment consumption habits, Pocket Casts is a breath of fresh air. Though they don't advertise the feature, a few taps will bring you to the stats screen, where you can see how much time you've spent listening to your podcasts, as well as how much time you've saved by skipping forward, speeding up playback, trimming silence and skipping the intros to shows.
Currently, the feature only measures this data for your total podcast listening, but perhaps a future update will let you analyse your listening by program.